Cheesecake 101

One of the most searched recipes over the holidays, cheesecake is beloved by many. Our intensive step-by-step guide offers basics for newbies and in-depth knowledge for more experienced bakers.

Quick and Simple Crumb Crust

image of hands stirring crumbs with buttter

1. Combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl, then add the melted butter. Toss with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened and clump together.

image of hands pressing crumbs into pan using a glass

2. Transfer the crumbs to a springform pan. Tamp down firmly using the bottom of a small drinking glass. After baking, cool on a wire rack. Don’t forget to lower the oven temperature before the next step.

Crust variations

Ginger Crust 

Gingersnaps or any crisp ginger cookies, whether store-bought or homemade, add a hint of spice.

Amaretti Crust 

Use equal parts Italian amaretti crumbs in combination with a more neutral-flavoured cookie such as vanilla wafers, digestive cookies or animal crackers.

Chocolate crust

Chocolate wafers, another classic.

Coconut crust

Process ¼ cup (60 mL) sweetened shredded coconut with the graham cracker crumbs.

Filling, Topping and Baking 

image of a handmixer mixing filling in a bowl

1. Start by mixing the cream cheese and sugar on low-medium speed until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters occasionally to remove any lumps. Add the vanilla, followed by the eggs, mixing just until incorporated.

image of filling being poured into prepared crust

2. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust and jiggle the pan to level the surface. Bake just until the sides have risen slightly and the centre is still wobbly. Transfer the cake to a wire rack while preparing the sour cream topping. Remember to raise the oven temperature for the last step.

image of topping being spread over baked cheesecake in pan

3. Mix together the topping ingredients, dollop onto the warm cake and spread in an even layer with an offset metal spatula or the back of a spoon. Return the cake to the oven for just 5 minutes then cool it on a wire rack for about 1 hour.

image of hand holding and running a palette knife around edge of cheesecake

4. Run a knife between the cake and the edges of the pan and release the springform ring. Chill the cake well before cutting.

Flavour Variations 

"Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, experiment with flavours added to the batter. The following are in keeping with the cooler winter season, but possibilities abound all year round.

LEMON Add 1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 30 mL) finely grated lemon rind to the batter. Top each serving with a spoonful of lemon curd, either homemade or store-bought.

CHOCOLATE Add about ½ cup (125 mL) mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate to the batter.

EGGNOG Tis the season so why not add a couple of tablespoons of dark rum and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg."

Recommended Ingredients

CREAM CHEESE This recipe was made with classic Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Avoid using the more expensive “natural” or specialty versions since your cake may not set properly.

SOUR CREAM Likewise, use full-fat sour cream for the topping and natural vanilla extract for both layers.

COOKIES When trying out different cookies for the crust, be mindful of the amount of melted butter you add. Some cookies may only require a small amount to clump together. If you add too much butter, it may leak out of the pan and onto the oven floor. You may want to place the springform pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips.

Image of hands pouring cranberry topping over cheesecake

Cranberry Drizzle

Easy to make ahead and so worth it! The colour is intense and stands out beautifully when drizzled over the cheesecake. The flavour and syrupy texture might have your guests wondering how it all came together. Pomegranate or cherry juice, or a combination for that matter, can easily stand in for cranberry juice. Pomegranate seeds add the finishing touch.

Tips for Success

All you need to know: pans and utensils to use, plus words from the wise — we’ve got you covered.


Catch the wobble! Many cheesecake recipes call for wrapping the springform pan in foil and baking in a water bath. The theory being that the surrounding water ensures even baking, a smooth, creamy texture, and thus no cracking. Success here, however, lies in the proper baking time — just until the edges are slightly puffed and the centre is a bit soft and wobbly. The cake continues to set upon cooling, with no cracks!

Have all ingredients at room temperature. The cream cheese MUST be on the soft side.


Don’t cut into the cake until it is well chilled.

Don’t worry if there are cracks on top. It will still be delicious.

Avoid overbeating and therefore over-aerating the batter, especially once the eggs are added.

Tools You Need

Springform + Substitutes

Springform + Substitutes

A solid leakproof springform pan is recommended, but there are other options.

Use a deep pie dish that measures 9½ inches (24 cm) across the top. Be sure to press the crust crumbs not only on the bottom of the dish but all the way up the sides as well.

A 9-inch (23-cm) square pan can also be used. Prepare as you would in a springform pan, but first line the pan with a cross of parchment paper so that all 4 sides are covered; pat crust into bottom of pan.

Kitchen Pro Tool

Kitchen Pro Tool

The size and angle of a small off-set metal spatula makes it the perfect tool for spreading cake batters, or in this case, the thin layer of sour cream, smoothly and evenly.